Rare species:Lion-tailed macaques are commonly found in Nelliyampathy forests and Silent Valley in Kerala.
Bangalore: Tea estates have chequered one of the most important habitats of the endangered lion-tailed macaques in the picturesque Highwavy Mountains of the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu, obstructing the movements of these canopy-dwelling primates.
The habitats of this rare macaque, found only in the evergreen forest of the Western Ghats, in the Highwavy ranges in Tamil Nadu's Theni district are circumscribed by a maze of tea estates, says a research paper published in the latest edition of Current Science.
With tea plantations posing a barrier to their arboreal movement, lion-tailed macaque and another primate, the Nilgiri langur, are all but absent from the western slopes of the mountains, the study observes. Some 266 individuals inhabit the Highwavy Mountains, according to the study.
As a result of these “barrier” between forest patches, the primates find themselves isolated to fragments of forests where their group size has swollen to average of 33 individuals. This group is far bigger than the groups observed in other forests: 19.6 in Silent Valley, 16.3 in Anaimalai Hills and 24.7 in Sirsi-Honnavara.
Habitat loss is the primary threat to the lion-tailed macaque that gets its name from the tuft of fur at the end of its tail (much like a lion's). Besides commercial plantations of tea, coffee, cardamom and eucalyptus, vast areas of original vegetation had been lost to three dams that have submerged valleys in the Highwavys. The paper is authored by H.N. Kumara of Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History in Coimbatore and researchers from University of Madras and the Kerala Forest Research Institute.
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